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Claassen keeps cards close to chest on Air Berlin: Handelsblatt
September 4, 2017 / 6:51 AM / in 3 months

Claassen keeps cards close to chest on Air Berlin: Handelsblatt

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Utz Claassen, a former chief executive of German utility EnBW (EBKG.DE), declined to confirm in an interview with daily Handelsblatt that he was interested in buying assets of insolvent airline Air Berlin (AB1.DE).

An Airbus A320-214 aircraft of Air Berlin airways is seen at Zurich airport, Switzerland August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

“If there was such interest, indiscretion would be unacceptable. Such bidding processes are generally subject to the utmost confidentiality,” the paper quoted Claassen as saying in its Monday edition.

Air Berlin, Germany’s second-largest airline, filed for bankruptcy protection in August after shareholder Etihad Airways withdrew funding following years of losses.

Now the carrier is to be carved up, most likely among several buyers, with about 140 leased aircraft and valuable take-off and landing slots in Germany up for grabs.

German weekly Der Spiegel had reported on Friday that Claassen had flagged to Air Berlin’s administrator a proposal that would help safeguard jobs with the help of a “highly potent and very reputable international investor”.

Asked whether he believed investors would be interested in a concept to grow rather than shrink Air Berlin, he told Handelsblatt: “There are always investors somewhere who are willing and able to restructure, at least if they haven’t been scared off by political posturing.”

German airline Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) has government backing to take over large parts of Air Berlin. Britain’s easyJet (EZJ.L) and Thomas Cook’s (TCG.L) Condor are also seen as likely bidders.

    Ryanair (RYA.I) said last week it would not submit a bid, and German aviation investor Hans Rudolf Woehrl stepped back from the process on Thursday to search for a partner.

    Former motor racing driver Niki Lauda told Reuters on Sunday he was working on a bid to buy back Air Berlin’s Niki unit.

    Bidders for the assets must submit offers by a Sept. 15 deadline, and a decision could come on Sept. 21, three days before the German national election.

    Air Berlin is being kept in the air thanks to a 150 million euro ($178.50 million) government loan, which officials say will last the airline for up to three months.

    Reporting by Maria Sheahan, editing by Louise Heavens

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